This Texas A&M University Research Team Is Trying to Save Quail Hunting: Here’s How

by TK Sanders

Texas A&M University-Commerce will likely become a national leader in gamebird research once the institution finishes a proposed agricultural education complex.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said the new complex will focus primarily on quail research, suggesting that the facilities planned show lots of promise.

“More birds, of course, is great news for hunters like me, but increased quail populations also means more opportunity for hunting-related businesses to thrive in Texas,” Sharp said.

Texas legislature already earmarked the $45 million needed for the complex late last year. The Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at A&M-Commerce, Dr. Randy Harp, said the entire region will benefit from the investment.

“These facilities will be transformational for our university and for East Texas,” Harp said. “The value of education, both teaching and research, will be immeasurable for our students for many years to come.”

The facility will feature a new National Laboratory for Gamebird Research housed within the complex. Professors and within stakeholders in the university envision the research lab becoming a leading force in developing sustainable gamebird population plans.

“The main purpose of the National Laboratory for Gamebird Research is to foster sustainable gamebird populations through innovative research, education and outreach,” Dr. Kelly Reyna, director of The Quail Research Laboratory at A&M-Commerce, said. “Our building, research, and educational experiences will tell the story of the national gamebird decline. We also want to know how we can join together to restore them. We are dedicated to facilitating the grand return of gamebirds.”

If Texas A&M can repopulate quail for game, hunters will pay for the service many times over

The new industry-leading Texas A&M lab will feature many services meant to bolster and sustain quail hunting; like a modern quail production facility and a gamebird education center. The education center will provide classes, conferences, and public outreach like nature trails.

Quail populations declined 80 percent in Texas since the 1960s, and the lab wants to turn that number around.

“The new facilities will allow us to look at the impacts of stressors like extreme climate, pesticides and nutrition on chick development and adult health across multiple generations,” Reyna also said. “We will also be able to recreate environmental conditions in the laboratory. And directly observe how stressors impact quail and other gamebird populations across multiple years. This will further our knowledge of gamebird population dynamics and sustainability, and help us develop solutions to mitigate these stressors.”

Why is the quail population worth bolstering with a $45 million investment? Because they indicate the health of all other grassland species. Research suggests that the rapid decline of quail is indicative of a much larger issue: instability and deterioration of Texas agricultural communities. Loss of habitat, especially, has negatively affected quail populations; not hunting.

If Texas A&M can reinvigorate the quail population, then hunting and its economic benefits should return in a major way, as well. Bird hunters spend an average of $8,800 per year on their sport — part of a $2 billion industry altogether. Therefore, the return of quail populations will pay for itself many times over.